Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On Meetings

It has been an interesting week.  After a couple of days of being sick, I am now in full "meeting mode" at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA.  Meetings are odd things.  Generally I don't like them, and the longer the meeting is, the less I like it.  This meeting goes for over a week.  And so far I have spent hours in a downstairs room (no windows) participating in a committee.  We have been discussing social justice issues, an important point of focus for any church (if you don't believe me wander through the Minor Prophets).  But it is a meeting, and a meeting about church governance at that.  What I jokingly call "my version of hell."

But there have been wonderful moments.  A chance to meet with a man who had a lot of influence on my life in college days (Steve Hayner), with a cousin, and chance encounters with other people from the narrative of my life.  Finding new friends who have open hearts and minds.  I have also had moments, during the breaks to read.  I have been chewing on a book by Wayne Muller, an author recommended by a counselor friend.

The book, How, Then, Shall We Live?" focuses on four critical questions we must ask ourselves if we want to find the meaning of our lives.  The questions are "Who Am I?",  "What do I love?", "How shall I live, knowing I will die?", and What is my gift to the family of earth?"

It got me thinking about the questions we as the Presbyterian Church are asking.  We seem to be asking the wrong questions.   Or perhaps not asking the wrong questions, but trying to answer questions about things like social justice without having asked the right questions first.  Such as "Who are we?"  "How do we as the church love God in Christ?" It seems we have to answer those questions first, before we can talk about how we live, about how we take our place in the family of earth.

Muller suggests that if we want to move on the questions about how we live in the world, we must first work on our inner life, and in that way create a life of beauty and meaning.  This seems to be a message I am seeing a lot lately.  Maybe it is being said more, or perhaps I am merely more prepared to hear it.  Mullen calls this becoming intimate with self and sacred.  Eckhart talks about the dialog between the kingdom within us and the spirit that flourishes in the world around us.  The Bible talks about the mystery of "Christ in us."  Muller calls it "finding our story."
However we name it, it is that part of us that is true, it is us created in God's image, and recreated when God, in the Holy Spirit, becomes active at the center of who we are, in our hearts.  When we find this self Muller insists, we find acceptance.  We know we are loved, and even loveable, in spite of our flaws.  We learn to take what is good in us, and work with it, celebrate it, nurture it, restore it, and thus grow and expand.  When we find acceptance and thus can be "who we really are", then we can act.

Yes, this may sound a little, 'out there', and no, I have not wrapped my head or my heart around it completely.  But somewhere in this movement inward, is the seed of a movement outward that will be meaningful.  It is when this inward movement has taken place, when we find what is good and true, and what is bad and false about ourselves, and embrace that self in the context of God's love, that meaningful action takes place.  It matters not whether the heart be mine, or the heart of the church.  

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